Battle of Brandywine

Battle of Brandywine

Overview
The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of the Brandywine or the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was fought between the American army of Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 and the British-Hessian army of General Sir William Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

 on September 11, 1777. The British defeated the Americans and forced them to withdraw toward the rebel capital of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

. The engagement occurred near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania
Chadds Ford Township is a township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States, about 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia. Prior to 1996, Chadds Ford Township was known as Birmingham Township, Delaware County, and the name was changed to allow the township to correspond to both its...

 during Howe's campaign to take Philadelphia
Philadelphia campaign
The Philadelphia campaign was a British initiative in the American Revolutionary War to gain control of Philadelphia, which was then the seat of the Second Continental Congress...

, part of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

.

Howe's army sailed from New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and landed near Elkton, Maryland
Elkton, Maryland
The town of Elkton is the county seat of Cecil County, Maryland, United States. The population was 11,893 as of the 2000 census and 14,842 according to current July 2008 census estimates. It is the county seat of Cecil County...

 in northern Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West...

.
Discussion
Ask a question about 'Battle of Brandywine'
Start a new discussion about 'Battle of Brandywine'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of the Brandywine or the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was fought between the American army of Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

 George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 and the British-Hessian army of General Sir William Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

 on September 11, 1777. The British defeated the Americans and forced them to withdraw toward the rebel capital of Philadelphia
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Philadelphia is the largest city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Philadelphia County, with which it is coterminous. The city is located in the Northeastern United States along the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers. It is the fifth-most-populous city in the United States,...

. The engagement occurred near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania
Chadds Ford Township, Pennsylvania
Chadds Ford Township is a township in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States, about 30 miles southwest of Philadelphia. Prior to 1996, Chadds Ford Township was known as Birmingham Township, Delaware County, and the name was changed to allow the township to correspond to both its...

 during Howe's campaign to take Philadelphia
Philadelphia campaign
The Philadelphia campaign was a British initiative in the American Revolutionary War to gain control of Philadelphia, which was then the seat of the Second Continental Congress...

, part of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

.

Howe's army sailed from New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 and landed near Elkton, Maryland
Elkton, Maryland
The town of Elkton is the county seat of Cecil County, Maryland, United States. The population was 11,893 as of the 2000 census and 14,842 according to current July 2008 census estimates. It is the county seat of Cecil County...

 in northern Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West...

. Marching north, the British-Hessian army brushed aside American light forces in a few skirmishes. Washington offered battle with his army posted behind Brandywine Creek. While part of his army demonstrated in front of Chadds Ford, Howe took the bulk of his troops on a long march that crossed the Brandywine beyond Washington's right flank. Due to poor scouting, the Americans did not detect Howe's column until it reached a position in rear of their right flank. Belatedly, three divisions were shifted to block the British-Hessian flanking force near a Quaker meeting house.

After a stiff fight, Howe's wing broke through the newly-formed American right wing which was deployed on several hills. At this point Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General
Lieutenant General is a military rank used in many countries. The rank traces its origins to the Middle Ages where the title of Lieutenant General was held by the second in command on the battlefield, who was normally subordinate to a Captain General....

 Wilhelm von Knyphausen
Wilhelm von Knyphausen
Wilhelm Reichsfreiherr zu Innhausen und Knyphausen was a general from Hesse-Cassel. He fought in the American Revolutionary War, during which he led Hessian mercenaries on behalf of the British Empire.-Biography:His father was colonel in a German regiment under the Duke of Marlborough...

 attacked Chadds Ford and crumpled the American left wing. As Washington's army streamed away in retreat, he brought up elements of Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, Greene was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington's most gifted and dependable officer. Many places in the United...

's division which held off Howe's column long enough for his army to escape to the northeast. The defeat and subsequent maneuvers left Philadelphia vulnerable. The British captured the city on September 26, beginning an occupation that would last until June 1778.

Background



In late July 1777, after a distressing 34-day journey from Sandy Hook on the coast of New Jersey
New Jersey
New Jersey is a state in the Northeastern and Middle Atlantic regions of the United States. , its population was 8,791,894. It is bordered on the north and east by the state of New York, on the southeast and south by the Atlantic Ocean, on the west by Pennsylvania and on the southwest by Delaware...

, a Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 fleet of more than 260 ships carrying some 17,000 British troops under the command of British General Sir William Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

 landed at the head of the Elk River
Elk River (Maryland)
The Elk River is a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay on the Delmarva Peninsula. It is about long, and as the most northeastern extension of the Chesapeake Bay estuary, serves as one entrance to the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. It is located in Cecil County, Maryland, with its headwaters extending...

, on the northern end of the Chesapeake Bay
Chesapeake Bay
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the United States. It lies off the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by Maryland and Virginia. The Chesapeake Bay's drainage basin covers in the District of Columbia and parts of six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West...

 near present-day Elkton, Maryland
Elkton, Maryland
The town of Elkton is the county seat of Cecil County, Maryland, United States. The population was 11,893 as of the 2000 census and 14,842 according to current July 2008 census estimates. It is the county seat of Cecil County...

 (then known as Head of Elk), approximately 40–50 miles (60–80 km) southwest of Philadelphia. Unloading the ships proved to be a logistical problem because the narrow river neck was shallow and muddy.

General George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 had situated the American forces, about 20,300 strong, between Head of Elk and Philadelphia. His forces were able to reconnoiter the British landing from Iron Hill near Newark, Delaware
Newark, Delaware
Newark is an American city in New Castle County, Delaware, west-southwest of Wilmington. According to the 2010 Census, the population of the city is 31,454. Newark is the home of the University of Delaware.- History :...

, about nine miles (14 km) to the northeast. Because of the delay disembarking from the ships, Howe did not set up a typical camp but quickly moved forward with the troops. As a result, Washington was not able to accurately gauge the strength of the opposing forces.
After a skirmish at Cooch's Bridge
Battle of Cooch's Bridge
The Battle of Cooch's Bridge, also known as the Battle of Iron Hill, was a skirmish fought on September 3, 1777, between American militia and primarily German soldiers serving alongside the British Army during the American Revolutionary War...

 south of Newark, the British troops moved north and Washington abandoned a defensive encampment along the Red Clay Creek
Red Clay Creek
Red Clay Creek is a tributary of White Clay Creek in southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware in the United States.The East and West branches both rise in West Marlborough Township, Pennsylvania, near the hamlet of Upland, and flow south through Kennett Square before uniting just north of...

 near Newport, Delaware
Newport, Delaware
Newport is a town in New Castle County, Delaware, United States. It is located on the Christina River. It is best known for being the home of colonial inventor Oliver Evans. The population was 1,055 at the 2010 census...

 to deploy against the British at Chadds Ford. This site was important as it was the most direct passage across the Brandywine River on the road from Baltimore
Baltimore
Baltimore is the largest independent city in the United States and the largest city and cultural center of the US state of Maryland. The city is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimore is sometimes referred to as Baltimore...

 to Philadelphia. On September 9, Washington positioned detachments to guard other fords above and below Chadds Ford, hoping to force the battle there. Washington employed General John Armstrong, commanding about 1,000 Pennsylvania militia
Militia (United States)
The role of militia, also known as military service and duty, in the United States is complex and has transformed over time.Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control, Page 36. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995. " The term militia can be used to describe any number of groups within the...

, to cover Pyle's Ford, a few hundred yards south of Chadds Ford, which was covered by Major Generals Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne was a United States Army general and statesman. Wayne adopted a military career at the outset of the American Revolutionary War, where his military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him a promotion to the rank of brigadier general and the sobriquet of Mad Anthony.-Early...

's and Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, Greene was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington's most gifted and dependable officer. Many places in the United...

's divisions. Major General John Sullivan
John Sullivan
John Sullivan was the third son of Irish immigrants, a United States general in the Revolutionary War, a delegate in the Continental Congress and a United States federal judge....

's division extended northward along the Brandywine's east banks, covering the high ground north of Chadds Ford along with Major General Adam Stephen
Adam Stephen
Adam Stephen was a Scottish-born doctor and military officer. He came to North America, where he served in the Virginia colonial militia under George Washington during the French and Indian War. He served under Washington again in the American Revolutionary War, rising to lead a division of the...

's division and Major General Lord Stirling's divisions. Further upstream was a brigade under Colonel Moses Hazen
Moses Hazen
Moses Hazen was a Brigadier General in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Born in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, he saw action in the French and Indian War with Rogers' Rangers. His service included particularly brutal raids during the Expulsion of the Acadians and...

 covering Buffington's Ford and Wistar's Ford. Washington was confident that the area was secure.

The British grouped forces at nearby Kennett Square
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania
Kennett Square is a borough in Chester County, Pennsylvania, United States. It is known as the Mushroom Capital of the World because mushroom farming in the region produces over a million pounds of mushrooms a year...

. Howe, who had better information about the area than Washington, had no intention of mounting a full scale frontal attack against the prepared American defenses. He instead employed a flanking maneuver
Flanking maneuver
In military tactics, a flanking maneuver, also called a flank attack, is an attack on the sides of an opposing force. If a flanking maneuver succeeds, the opposing force would be surrounded from two or more directions, which significantly reduces the maneuverability of the outflanked force and its...

, similar to that used in the Battle of Long Island
Battle of Long Island
The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, fought on August 27, 1776, was the first major battle in the American Revolutionary War following the United States Declaration of Independence, the largest battle of the entire conflict, and the...

. About 5,000 men under the command of Wilhelm von Knyphausen
Wilhelm von Knyphausen
Wilhelm Reichsfreiherr zu Innhausen und Knyphausen was a general from Hesse-Cassel. He fought in the American Revolutionary War, during which he led Hessian mercenaries on behalf of the British Empire.-Biography:His father was colonel in a German regiment under the Duke of Marlborough...

 advanced to meet Washington's troops at Chadds Ford. The remainder of Howe's troops, under the command of Charles, Lord Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis
Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis KG , styled Viscount Brome between 1753 and 1762 and known as The Earl Cornwallis between 1762 and 1792, was a British Army officer and colonial administrator...

, marched north to Trimble's Ford
Trimbleville Historic District
Trimbleville, also known as Trimble's Ford and the Trimbleville Historic District is a hamlet of about six homes, in southern Chester County, Pennsylvania, about two miles south of Marshallton....

 across the West Branch of the Brandywine Creek, then east to Jefferis Ford across the East Branch (two fords that Washington had overlooked), and then south to flank the American forces.

Battle



The British advance


September 11 began with a heavy fog, which provided cover for the British troops. Washington received contradictory reports about the British troop movements and continued to believe that the main force was moving to attack at Chadds Ford. At 5:30 a.m. the British and Hessian troops began marching east along the "Great Road" (now Route 1) from Kennett Square, advancing on the American troops positioned where the road crossed Brandywine Creek. The first shots of the battle took place at a tavern where the British were repulsed. The British called for reinforcements and ran down the road to take cover behind the stone walls on the Old Kennett Meetinghouse
Old Kennett Meetinghouse
Old Kennett Meetinghouse is a historic meeting house of the Religious Society of Friends or "Quakers" in Kennett Township near Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.-History:...

 grounds. The battle was fought at mid-morning around the meeting house while the pacifist Quakers continued to hold their midweek service. One of the Quakers later wrote, "While there was much noise and confusion without, all was quiet and peaceful within."

From the Meetinghouse grounds, the battle continued for three miles to what is now Battlefield Park. Eventually the British pushed the Americans back but not before suffering heavy losses. The British appeared on the Americans' right flank at around 2 p.m. With Hazen's brigades outflanked, Sullivan, Stephen, and Stirling tried to reposition their troops to meet the unexpected British threat to their right flank. Howe was slow to attack, which bought time for the Americans to position some of their men on high ground at Birmingham Meetinghouse
Birmingham Friends Meetinghouse
Birmingham Friends Meetinghouse is a historic Quaker meeting house at 1245 Birmingham Road in Birmingham Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania. The current meetinghouse was built in 1763 and added to the National Register in 1971. The building and the adjacent cemetery were near the center of...

, about a mile (1.6 km) north of Chadds Ford. By 4 p.m., the British attacked, with Stephen's and Stirling's divisions receiving the brunt of the assault; both American divisions lost ground fast.

American counterattack dissolves into retreat



Sullivan attacked a group of Hessian troops trying to outflank Stirling's men near Meeting House Hill and bought some time for most of Stirling's men to withdraw, but returned British fire forced Sullivan's men to retreat. At this point, slightly after 4 p.m., Washington and Greene arrived with reinforcements to try to hold off the British, who now occupied Meeting House Hill. These reinforcements, combined with the remnants of Sullivan's, Stephen's, and Stirling's divisions, stopped the pursuing British for nearly an hour but were eventually forced to retreat. The Americans were also forced to leave behind many of their cannon on Meeting House Hill because almost all of their artillery horses were killed.

Knyphausen, on the east bank of the Brandywine, launched an attack against the weakened American center across Chadds Ford, breaking through the divisions commanded by Wayne and William Maxwell and forcing them to retreat and leave behind most of their cannon. Armstrong's militia, never engaged in the fighting, also decided to retreat from their positions. Further north, Greene sent Brigadier General George Weedon
George Weedon
George Weedon was an American soldier during the Revolutionary War from Fredericksburg, Virginia.He served as a Brigadier General in the Continental Army and later in the Virginia militia....

's troops to cover the road just outside the town of Dilworth to hold off the British long enough for the rest of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 to retreat. Darkness brought the British pursuit to a standstill, which then allowed Weedon's force to retreat. The defeated Americans retreated to Chester
Chester, Pennsylvania
Chester is a city in Delaware County, Pennsylvania, United States, with a population of 33,972 at the 2010 census. Chester is situated on the Delaware River, between the cities of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Delaware.- History :...

 where most of them arrived at midnight, with stragglers arriving until morning. The American retreat was well-organized largely due to the efforts of Gilbert du Motier, marquis de Lafayette, who, although wounded, created a rally point that allowed for a more orderly retreat before being treated for his wound.

Losses


The official British casualty list detailed 587 casualties: 93 killed (eight officers, seven sergeants and 78 rank and file); 488 wounded (49 officers, 40 sergeants, four drummers and 395 rank and file); and six rank and file missing unaccounted for. Only 40 of the British Army’s casualties were Hessians. Historian Thomas J. McGuire writes that, "American estimates of British losses run as high as 2,000, based on distant observation and sketchy, unreliable reports".

No casualty return for the American army at Brandywine survives and no figures, official or otherwise, were ever released. Most accounts of the American loss were from the British side. One initial report by a British officer recorded American casualties at over 200 killed, around 750 wounded, and 400 prisoners taken, many of them wounded. A member of General Howe's staff claimed that 400 rebels were buried on the field by the victors. Another British officer wrote that, "The Enemy had 502 dead in the field". General Howe's report to the British colonial secretary, Lord George Germain
George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville
George Germain, 1st Viscount Sackville PC , known as the Hon. George Sackville to 1720, as Lord George Sackville from 1720 to 1770, and as Lord George Germain from 1770 to 1782, was a British soldier and politician who was Secretary of State for America in Lord North's cabinet during the American...

, said that the Americans, "had about 300 men killed, 600 wounded, and near 400 made prisoners". On September 14, 350 wounded Americans were taken from the British camp at Dilworth to a newly-established hospital at Wilmington, Delaware
Wilmington, Delaware
Wilmington is the largest city in the state of Delaware, United States, and is located at the confluence of the Christina River and Brandywine Creek, near where the Christina flows into the Delaware River. It is the county seat of New Castle County and one of the major cities in the Delaware Valley...

. This would suggest that of the "near 400" prisoners reported by Howe, only about 50 had surrendered unwounded. If General Greene's estimate of the total American loss was accurate, then they had between 1,160 and 1,260 killed, wounded or deserted during the battle. The British also captured 11 out of 14 of the American artillery guns. Among the American wounded was the Marquis de Lafayette.

In addition to losses in battle, 315 men were posted as deserters from Washington's camp during this stage of the campaign.

Aftermath



Although Howe had defeated the American army, his lack of cavalry prevented its total destruction. Washington had committed a serious error in leaving his right flank wide open and nearly brought about his army's annihilation had it not been for Sullivan, Stirling and Stephen's divisions, which fought for time. Evening was approaching and, in spite of the early start Cornwallis had made in the flanking manoeuvre, most of the American army was able to escape.

British and Patriot forces manoeuvred around each other for the next several days with only comparatively minor encounters such as the Battle of Paoli on the night of September 20–21.

The Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 abandoned Philadelphia, first to Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster is a city in the south-central part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It is the county seat of Lancaster County and one of the older inland cities in the United States, . With a population of 59,322, it ranks eighth in population among Pennsylvania's cities...

 for one day and then to York, Pennsylvania
York, Pennsylvania
York, known as the White Rose City , is a city located in York County, Pennsylvania, United States which is in the South Central region of the state. The population within the city limits was 43,718 at the 2010 census, which was a 7.0% increase from the 2000 count of 40,862...

. Military supplies were moved out of the city to Reading, Pennsylvania
Reading, Pennsylvania
Reading is a city in southeastern Pennsylvania, USA, and seat of Berks County. Reading is the principal city of the Greater Reading Area and had a population of 88,082 as of the 2010 census, making it the fifth most populated city in the state after Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Allentown and Erie,...

. On September 26, 1777, British forces marched into Philadelphia unopposed.

Further reading

  • Fortescue, John. History of the British Army.
  • McGuire, Thomas J. Brandywine Battlefield Park: Pennsylvania Trail of History Guide. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001.
  • McGuire, Thomas J. The Philadelphia Campaign, Vol. I: Brandywine and the Fall of Philadelphia. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2006.
  • Martin, David G., The Philadelphia Campaign: June 1777–July 1778. Conshohocken, Pennsylvania: Combined Books, 1993. ISBN 0-938289-19-5. 2003 Da Capo reprint, ISBN 0-306-81258-4.
  • Bruce Mowday
    Bruce Mowday
    Bruce E. Mowday is an author and Republican political activist who lives in Chester County, Pennsylvania. He specializes in books about local history.- Books :...

    . September 11, 1777: Washington's Defeat at Brandywine Dooms Philadelphia. White Mane Publishers.
  • Ward, Christopher. The War of the Revolution.

External links



(230th anniversary re-enactment)